How can news organizations provide an engaging, mobile-only experience that improves reader retention and loyalty? News organizations and publishers have been working tirelessly to improve the mobile news experience. Push notifications, straddling the line between valuable information and just plain annoyance, have recently peaked as a means to provide readers with news updates in real-time.
The Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab tested push notifications at a critical time in history, the 2016 Presidential Election. While some of us were experiencing bouts of anxiety awaiting updates, Guardian app users were constantly in the know. Users who signed up for notifications from the app saw the most recent count of electoral votes won, how many states had been called, and a detailed breakdown of the popular vote between candidates. Through this process, the Guardian discovered that they could go beyond sending alerts just for intriguing articles; they could put out something in real-time. The notifications providing election results were the product of the lab’s collaboration with the Guardian digital development team in the UK, and was the most technologically complicated string of experiments thus far, carving the path for a seamless mobile user experience.
In an attempt to show publishers the utility of push notifications, the Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab teamed up with MaassMedia’s Sr. Digital Analyst, Lynette Chen. Rather than judge the performance of push notifications through page views and click throughs, which can sometimes give an incomplete view of engagement, the team took a multidimensional approach, examining net interaction rate and survey responses. These customized metrics allowed for a much deeper understanding of performance that simple measurements cannot provide. The insight gained from such experimentation has fueled the Mobile Innovation Lab’s progress with push notifications, with the creation of benchmarks on the horizon.
These strides with push notifications did not go unnoticed. Indeed, it didn’t take long for The Wall Street Journal to recognize the benefits reaped from implementing real-time alerts. Happy to share its newly acquired tips and tricks, the lab teamed up with The Wall Street Journal. Together, they evaluated live news design prototypes and collaborated to craft an effective feedback survey. The Wall Street Journal launched a live notifications experiment for the July jobs report on their site and in their apps, and plans to use these notifications in future live coverage. Furthermore, thanks to running the experiment, The Wall Street Journal hopes to distinguish where time is best spent when it comes to testing out new formats for live news.
While a lot of breakthroughs are coming out of each news outlet, push notifications are still in the experimental phase. Engagement will always be a work in progress, but it’s clear that push notifications hold a lot of potential. With the aid of custom metrics, we can only continue to improve the customer experience.